Friday, August 31, 2012
Jesus knew firsthand what it meant to live with limited financial resources, to have others--including family members--question His actions (Mark 3:21), and to suffer rejection by those He sought to serve (John 6:66). Yet, in spite of such opposition, Jesus never let circumstances control His emotions or dictate His actions. Instead, He chose to trust that the Father was able to carry out His Word.
We are called to follow the example of Christ by believing that God is able to do what He has promised. For instance, the Bible pledges eternal salvation for everyone who asks for forgiveness in Jesus' name (Heb. 7:25). The Son's death on the cross satisfied the demands of divine justice for all our sins--from "white lies" to unspeakably vile acts. When we have true faith in Jesus, God will forgive us and make each of us a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). No matter what trouble we may have caused, He invites us to draw near in faith and receive the gift of everlasting life.
God promises to save whoever trusts in Him, and also to establish believers in truth (Rom. 16:25). He gives us a firm foundation in Christ and then builds us up in righteousness. Through His Spirit and the Word, we start to see things as our Father does and then can understand what pleases Him.
By believing God keeps His promises, we grow stronger in our faith and gain peace. Hardships that would have thrown us off course lose their power to shake us. Hope replaces discouragement, and trust overcomes doubt. When trouble comes, focus on God's ability to care for you.
Copyright 2012 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
As enjoyable as traveling may be, most of us would admit to having a sense of security and delight upon arriving back home. There's just something comforting about opening the door, seeing familiar things, and feeling we're where we belong.
The apostle John was given a vision that included glimpses inside our future home, the new Jerusalem. You may be surprised to know that some things from our old abode will be missing. But what replaces them will be infinitely better.
For one thing, there were no church buildings in John's vision, "for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple" (Rev. 21:22). No longer will denominations divide up the body of Christ. Nor will the sun or moon shine on the city in that day, "for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb" (v. 23). Imagine--no need for electricity, flashlights, or candles.
One other difference is that the city gates will always be open. Since sin will not be a factor, locks will be unnecessary in our heavenly home. Death and decay will also be absent. In fact, nothing impure will ever enter that future residence--utter holiness will characterize the heavenly place, and suffering will be a thing of the past. What we have to look forward to is the abundant life in Christ, pure and unmarred.
Think about the comfortable feeling you have as you open your front door. That's but a hint of what we'll feel some day on arriving at the place our Father has lovingly and personally prepared for us in heaven. We will finally--and permanently--be "at home" in a way that defies description.
Copyright 2012 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Hanging above the door in our house, my mother's favorite plaque constantly reminded us, "Prayer changes things." From an early age, I witnessed this powerful truth through her example. She'd tell me about some difficulties she was facing and then have me pray about them with her. And later, she'd always be sure to give God the glory when sharing the awesome news that He had answered those prayers.
Indeed, this is our confidence: Anything we pray for that aligns with the Father's plan will be granted. And the more time we spend with Him, the more we'll come to understand His will and how to pray for it.
Remember, prayer doesn't change God's mind, but it does transform the believer's heart. Some requests are granted immediately, simply because we asked with the realization that our Father loves to give us good gifts. Other requests may require time or certain divine preparations before they can be given. We, meanwhile, must simply be diligent to persevere in prayer.
Whatever the Lord's response or timing, we trust that He has only the very best in store for His children. That means we might not receive exactly what we're asking for, but something even better. Such is God's great pleasure, for He alone perfectly knows each heart's desire and wishes to fulfill it.
Our most powerful tool for shaping the world and lives around us is always available. Prayer lets us witness God's hand in any situation. And as we give attention, time, and perseverance to conversation with Him, we find no limit to what He can achieve in people's hearts and circumstances.
Copyright 2012 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
We've all heard jokes about men who refuse to stop and ask for directions. But in reality, there's probably a good bit of truth to the stereotype, and it isn't limited to males. Plenty of men and women in this world zoom along without slowing down to ask for guidance.
If you were to look at the situation from a spiritual perspective, you'd see a world of lost souls desperately trying to save themselves. They think they can earn their way into heaven through hard work and the accumulation of good deeds. But they're wrong.
Today's passage from Luke describes a wealthy person who makes a lot of plans based only on his own thoughts, desires, and experience. Take the time to look at the passage again, and notice how many times he used the words "I" and "my." What you'll see is that his focus was squarely on himself. This parable is a sad picture of the self-directed man trying to make his own way and secure his own future with no help from anyone--including God.
The Lord didn't mince words: He called the man "fool" (v. 20). Worldly wisdom amounts to nothing in the eyes of our omniscient, all-wise Father (1 Cor. 1:20), and He expects His children to request and follow His guidance.
The message for us today is clear: When we figure out our own plans and take action with no thought about what God would advise, we are behaving like fools. The Lord has a plan for your life. He knows where you'll succeed and where you'll fail. Be wise and ask Him for directions.
Who Are the Meek? Greg Laurie Meekness is not weakness. Sometimes we confuse the two. But the difference between a meek person and weak person is this: a weak person can't do anything. A meek person, on the other hand, can do something but chooses not to. Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5). The word meek from the original language was used to describe reining in a stallion. It is the idea of a horse being controlled by a bit and bridle. The horse is choosing to submit to authority. That is meekness. It is power under constraint. Although Jesus said, "Blessed [happy] are the meek," we don't celebrate meekness in our culture. Instead, we celebrate assertiveness. We celebrate getting things from other people, sometimes even taking advantage of other people. When is the last time you saw a movie that celebrated the virtue of meekness? When is the last time the big buildup for the movie was the moment when the good guy meekly restrains himself, even though he was wronged? We don't want to go to a movie like that. We want to see a payback movie in which the first half consists of bad things happening to the hero, and the last half consists of bad things that come to the people who did those things to the hero. That is what entertains us. That is what our culture celebrates. How different this is from what the Bible teaches. The Bible celebrates meekness. The biblical worldview says last is first. Giving is receiving. Dying is living. Losing is finding. The least is the greatest. Meekness is strength. The idea is that we are living by God's truthnot by what our culture says should make us happy. Taken from "Meekness, Not Weakness " by Harvest Ministries (used by permission).
Monday, August 27, 2012
The heavenly Father has a grand plan for the life of every person, and it can be summed up in the word sanctification. If you have never been certain of the term's meaning, you are not alone--many people are unclear about its definition. However, believers should understand it because the word defines them.
In its verb form--sanctify--the term means "to make holy" or "to separate." So when something is sanctified, it is separated from its former common usage and is dedicated for sacred purposes. The Old Testament mentions a number of things that the Lord sanctified: He made the seventh day holy, set aside the Levite tribe as priests, and even consecrated places like the Holy of Holies inside the tabernacle (Gen. 2:3; Num. 3).
The heavenly Father still sanctifies people today. Before a person places his faith in the Savior, he is spiritually dead and, in fact, an enemy of God (Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 5:10). But the moment someone chooses to trust in Jesus Christ, his sins are wiped away, and he is adopted into God's family. That individual is set apart as a child of God, with a sacred purpose. This means believers are not here to chase after personal gain but to serve the Lord and bring Him honor and glory.
As members of God's family who are called upon to reflect His glory, believers are referred to as "saints." We are given this moniker--which shares its root with sanctification--not because we live sinless lives, but because we live a life consistent with the One we represent.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Sanctification is the process God uses to conform believers to the image of His Son. The writers of Scripture employed images that speak of the Father's shaping work in the life of His saints. Isaiah, for example, compared the Lord to an artist making pottery: "We are the clay and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand" (64:8). Some of the tools He utilizes to mold and perfect His creations are...
The Bible. The psalmist described God's Word as "a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (119:105). The Holy Spirit illuminates what we read so that we can come under conviction and grow in our faith.
The church. As part of Christ's body, we learn of God's ways from the pastor and teachers who've been called to minister. The Father also calls His children to fellowship together (Heb. 10:25), in part so He can use them in each other's sanctification process. Not only that, but there are Christians at church who will encourage their brothers and sisters in times of trouble--and hold them accountable when they miss the mark.
Suffering. God freely offers us solace and help during times of difficulty, but He also uses our painful circumstances to shape us. When we submit to the work He is doing, we emerge from our struggles looking more Christlike than ever before.
From the moment a person places trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, God's transforming work of sanctification will be ongoing throughout this life. As children of the King, we should long to glorify our Father by faithfully reflecting Him. To do that, we must yield to His tools of sanctification.
Friday, August 24, 2012
When a person places his faith in Jesus Christ, he becomes a new believer, and he is sanctified--that is, set apart for God's purpose. Unlike salvation, which takes place in a single moment, sanctification is a lifelong process. We who are followers of the Savior should be letting the Holy Spirit control our lives. If that is the case, we are currently being sanctified, regardless of what we may feel or how our actions appear to others. In other words, we are progressively maturing in our faith.
And if we are progressing, we must be working our way toward something. The apostle Paul explained the Christian's mission: "For those whom [God] foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:29). A believer's character, conduct, and conversation should be reflections of Jesus, who lives within. On our own, we'd place too much emphasis on behavior and get caught up with following rules and rituals that look Christian without truly reflecting Christ. But God has given each believer His Spirit as a teacher and guide. The Spirit works to transform our minds and hearts so that we are markedly different from our unsaved peers. When we allow the Spirit to control us, we speak and act in accordance with our true identity: God's sons and daughters.
Our Father wants His children to be living examples of who He is. He doesn't expect perfection--He knows we can't be totally sinless in our human body. But He shows us how to think and act so we may "walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called" (Eph. 4:1).
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Every one of us will experience moments of apprehension, and denial or trying to hide from it will do no good. When fear arises, ask yourself the following questions: Where does it come from? (You know it isn't from God.) Has God ever failed me in the past? Does He promise to meet all of my needs? Does He keep His promises?
If we read the Bible, we'll find countless stories of God's faithfulness. For example, Paul lived through hardship, persecution, pain, and all kinds of terrible circumstances. The apostle wrote these well-known words: "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). This testifies to the fact that for those who trust in Him, God turns every difficulty, loss, and separation into something good.
From Abraham to Isaiah to David to Job to Jonah to Paul to John, we see God's constant love and care for His people. His Word is a lamp that will give us clear guidance when circumstances are bleak. It offers the best direction we will ever find. When we meditate upon it, pray over it, grapple with it, and incorporate it into our lives, His light chases away the darkness. The psalms, in particular, are helpful in dealing with fear.
God, the sovereign ruler of this universe, is in control of your life. Don't make the mistake of thinking He isn't, simply because He does not operate according to your will and schedule. If you read your Bible and meditate on it, you will find genuine strength in His promises.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Fear obviously produces anxiety, but it also creates chaos in our lives and even affects those around us.
- Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.
- Fear hinders us from becoming the people God wants us to be. When we are dominated by negative emotions, we cannot achieve the goals He has in mind for us. A lack of self-confidence stymies our belief in what the Lord can do with our lives.
- Fear can drive people to destructive habits. To numb the pain of overbearing distress and foreboding, some turn to things like drugs and alcohol for artificial relief.
- Fear steals peace and contentment. When we're always afraid, our life becomes centered on pessimism and gloom.
- Fear creates doubt. God promises us an abundant life, but if we surrender instead to the
What are you afraid of--loss, rejection, poverty, or death? Everybody will face such realities at some point. All you need to know is, God will never reject you. Whether you accept Him is your decision.
The Bible tells us that God will meet all our needs. He feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass with the splendor of lilies. How much more, then, will He care for us, who are made in His image? Our only concern is to obey the heavenly Father and leave the consequences to Him.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
These days, there are plenty of reasons to fear. Our world seems to be in a continuous state of war and crisis. The jobs market is dismal, natural disasters wreak havoc, and stories of crime dominate the headlines. As Christians, we know that fear should have no place in our lives, but how can we ignore what's going on around us?
Basically, there are two paths you can walk: faith or fear. It's impossible to simultaneously trust God and not trust God. Another way of saying this is that you cannot both obey and disobey Him--partial obedience is disobedience. So, which road are you traveling?
Some people who read the Bible and believe in God nevertheless choose to live with fear. Seeing others experience hardship, they start wondering if it could happen to them: Someone at my office lost his job; will I be next? Someone died in an accident--I could die too. But this kind
of "logic" places your circumstances above your relationship to God.
If Satan can get you to think like this, he has won the battle for your mind. But when you focus on God rather than your circumstances, whatever the situation is, you win. The Bible tells us, "God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline" (2 Tim. 1:7).
Our heavenly Father understands our disappointment, suffering, pain, fear, and doubt. He is always there to encourage our hearts and help us understand that He's sufficient for all of our needs. When I accepted this as an absolute truth in my life, I found that my worrying stopped.
Monday, August 20, 2012
Have you ever ignored the press of conviction upon your heart? Maybe you rationalized your wrongdoing with the thought that if God were really upset, He'd put a stop to things by disciplining you. Psalm 50:21 reminds us that the silence of heaven does not mean approval. Remaining in sin is an abuse of the Lord's patience.
When God seems slow to react, we might hope He's overlooking our transgressions--we'd like to continue in sin because the momentary pleasure is more appealing than obedience. But thankfully, the Father knows our weaknesses, our innate carnality, and the state of our spiritual growth, and He therefore measures His response. Motivated by love and a desire to gently restore His children to righteousness, God refrains from doling out immediate punishment. Instead, He waits for the Holy Spirit's proddings to impact the believer's heart. The weight of conviction is actually an invitation to turn from wrongdoing and return to godliness.
However, we're a stubborn people. There are times when we persist in sin because the sentence against an evil deed isn't executed quickly (Eccl. 8:11). In this dangerous situa-tion, it's possible to immerse ourselves in sin and harden our hearts against the Lord. Then the Holy Spirit's call to repentance falls on spiritual ears rapidly going deaf.
As we learn and understand more about God and His ways, we are increasingly responsible to live righteously. The Lord is not slow; He's patient. Do not abuse His patience with callous disregard for His statutes. Repent and be holy in the sight of the Lord.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
The Lord's seemingly slow reaction to sin often puzzles believers. Why doesn't He immediately punish those who violate His principles? The succinct answer is found in 2 Peter 3--the Lord is patient so that all people have an opportunity to repent (v. 9).
In our humanness, we at times want people to suffer for wrongdoing. Jonah ran away from his duty to preach in Nineveh, because he expected that if the inhabitants repented, his gracious, compassionate God would relent about destroying the city. And that is precisely what came to pass. Instead of rejoicing in the Lord's success, the prophet complained about His treating the Ninevites with patience and mercy (Jonah 4:2).
Jonah was angry at God despite the fact that he himself had received divine mercy. (Unpleasant though it was, there are worse forms of discipline than being swallowed and regurgitated by a fish.)
More often than not, believers have ample reason to be thankful that the Lord, unlike human beings, is slow to anger. When we are stubborn and unrepentant, He waits patiently for us to respond to conviction. Discipline is painful to both the recipient and the one carrying it out. God prefers that we see the error of our ways, stop thinking that we're getting away with sin, and turn back to His righteous path.
The Lord places such a high value on repentance and maintaining fellowship that He is willing to delay punishment of sin. But only for a time. Eventually, His justice demands a penalty. Do not wait for discipline. Instead, do what's right, and turn your heart back toward God.
Friday, August 17, 2012
When troubled or in pain, we turn to people who will listen patiently to our cries of distress. But I wonder how often we seek to be the person who gently steps up to share a hurting friend's burden for as long as it lasts?
Paul encouraged believers to "put on" a heart of compassion, kindness, and patience. In other words, we don't come from the womb pre-equipped with these traits. Rather, we receive on-the-job training in imitating Christ as we bear with and forgive one another. The Holy Spirit is more than willing to instruct us in the proper ways to grow spiritual fruit. The Lord then provides opportunities for us to try out our newly developed skills.
We tend to classify patience rather narrowly as "waiting." That's certainly part of the definition, but so are concepts like endurance, perseverance, and persistence. When we're relating to others as Paul challenged us to do, we are not simply waiting for them to become better versions of themselves. We are enduring their hardship alongside them or persisting in our attempts to offer aid. We're caring, listening, and serving however we can. In a world that insists on doing everything quickly, patience is an amazing gift to give another person.
By placing patience on the list of spiritual fruit, God indicated that every believer could develop this trait. Whatever additional gifts and talents you possess, patience is an attribute that you can put on. Practice it for the glory of God and as a way to serve your fellow man.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
The Scriptures contain many stories of people who waited years or even decades before the Lord's promises came to pass. What modern believers can learn from the patience of biblical saints like Abraham, Joseph, David, and Paul is that waiting upon the Lord has eternal rewards.
Today let's look at Israel's most memorable monarch. David was the chosen heir to Israel's throne, but he spent years dodging King Saul's wrathful pursuit. Despite having two different opportunities for vengeance, David resisted the temptation and spared Saul's life. He chose to adhere to God's timetable for his coronation instead of dishonoring the Lord by killing the divinely anointed king. David's psalms reveal his intimate awareness of Yahweh's work in his life. The shepherd king not only achieved his objective through patience; he also observed that God's way was always best.
David left behind an incredible testimony of God's faithfulness for each of us to read and meditate upon. He was committed to waiting upon the Lord, and as a result, he had the Father's approval and blessing. We cannot underestimate the reward of living in divine favor. That isn't a special state reserved for "giants of the faith" like David. All who obediently endure until the Lord acts on their behalf abide in His favor.
David didn't receive his blessings because he was special; he was honored among men because he honored the Lord above all. And since he trusted in God's faithfulness, he endured hardship with patience. We, too, can expect to be blessed when we wait upon the Lord.
"Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name." Psalm 29:2 God's glory is the result of his nature and acts. He is glorious in his character, for there is such a store of everything that is holy, and good, and lovely in God, that he must be glorious. The actions which flow from his character are also glorious; but while he intends that they should manifest to his creatures his goodness, and mercy, and justice, he is equally concerned that the glory associated with them should be given only to himself. Nor is there aught in ourselves in which we may glory; for who maketh us to differ from another? And what have we that we did not receive from the God of all grace? Then how careful ought we to be to walk humbly before the Lord! The moment we glorify ourselves, since there is room for one glory only in the universe, we set ourselves up as rivals to the Most High. Shall the insect of an hour glorify itself against the sun which warmed it into life? Shall the potsherd exalt itself above the man who fashioned it upon the wheel? Shall the dust of the desert strive with the whirlwind? Or the drops of the ocean struggle with the tempest? Give unto the Lord, all ye righteous, give unto the Lord glory and strength; give unto him the honour that is due unto his name. Yet it is, perhaps, one of the hardest struggles of the Christian life to learn this sentence--"Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be glory." It is a lesson which God is ever teaching us, and teaching us sometimes by most painful discipline. Let a Christian begin to boast, "I can do all things," without adding "through Christ which strengtheneth me," and before long he will have to groan, "I can do nothing," and bemoan himself in the dust. When we do anything for the Lord, and he is pleased to accept of our doings, let us lay our crown at his feet, and exclaim, "Not I, but the grace of God which was with me!"
Be Merciful to Me, A Sinner BIBLE MEDITATION: "Show us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation." Psalm 85:7 DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT: There's a story about a lady who went to a photographer to have her picture made. When she saw it, she didn't like it. She took it back and told the photographer, "You'll have to take this over." He asked, "What's wrong with it?" She said, "It doesn't do me justice." He looked at it and looked at her and said, "Lady, you don't need justice, what you need is mercy." God is just, but we need mercy. If you have never come to place where you have seen yourself as a sinner lost before Almighty God and cried out to Him for mercy, you've never been saved. ACTION POINT: You may have joined a church, but have you thrown yourself on the mercy of the court? Have you said, "Lord God be merciful to me, a sinner?" ______________________________________ Pass this devotional on http://www.lwf.org/site/R?i=vMYg3XyLB0eFd61bOPHoHg
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Job was a man who certainly knew trouble and temptation, and yet he boldly claimed, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him" (Job 13:15). That is commitment. Job had lost his children, his fortune, and his health, but he refused to abandon faith in God. The stricken man was determined to hold on because he trusted the Lord to do right.
Unwavering commitment to trust the Lord in all situations is a cornerstone of unshakable faith. From the vantage point of that foundation, we can focus our eyes upon God alone. It is easy to be distracted by circumstances and allow them to dictate our emotions. But if that's the case, then when life is good, we're happy; when times are tough, we're frustrated; and when hardship pours in, we're downright miserable and looking for escape.
Unlike Job, we are fortunate to have Scripture, which reveals God's nature and promises. And it is a wise believer who claims those promises when enduring hardship. For His Word tells us that our Father is always good, always just, always faithful, and always trustworthy. When we take our eyes off the whirl of day-to-day activity and concentrate on honoring Him and following in His way, we find a consistent peace that carries us through both plenty and poverty.
In order to hold on to God through any trial or temptation, commit to trust and follow Him all of your days. Lay claim to His promises: The unchanging Lord and Savior (Heb. 13:8) is committed to caring for you in all circumstances (1 Peter 5:7) and will never leave or forsake you (Heb. 13:5).
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Christ began His public ministry with baptism. At the time, John the Baptist was calling people to confess their sins and demonstrate repentance through immersion in the river. So why did Jesus, the sinless One, ask to be baptized? At first, John actually refused, knowing Christ was the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). But Jesus wasn't demonstrating repentance; He was sacrificially identifying with sinful humankind.
As Christians, we're called to follow His example in all things, becoming more like Him as we grow in our faith. That's why baptism is the first step in following Jesus. As He was willing to identify Himself with us, we publicly identify with Him when we are baptized, which is a symbolic way of declaring, "I have trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior and believe that the debt of my sin is fully paid through His sacrifice. I believe that as He rose from the dead, I will also be resurrected through Him. I look forward to walking in God's will while I'm on the earth and living with Him throughout eternity. Since He loved me enough to identify Himself with me in my sin, I will show my love for Him by following His example right now, and for the rest of my days."
Baptism demonstrates our connection not only with Christ but also with our spiritual brothers and sisters--past, present, and future. We're joining everyone who has walked before us in faith, saying that we are members of one body, redeemed and brought to life by the same Lord.
This post was modified from its original form on 14 Aug, 6:01
Monday, August 13, 2012
Jesus commissioned His followers to go and make disciples, "baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). As the early church spread the gospel message, baptism would follow a new believer's response of faith. It publicly signified that the individual was now a follower of Jesus.
Metaphors often communicate on a level that words cannot. Baptism is a powerful picture of our salvation experience. Through this act, we proclaim the good news that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again--and testify that we've welcomed His transforming power into our life.
The Greek word for "baptize" in Scripture is the same term used to describe a cloth dipped in dye--it refers to total change. So by being plunged into the water, we declare that we're choosing to die to our old way of life and are uniting with Christ. Our sin is buried with Him, and its power is conquered through His atoning death on the cross (Rom. 6:14). When we're raised up out of the water, we affirm His resurrection. Baptism is a symbolic way of expressing that just as the Lord conquered death and rose again, we are spiritually resurrected from death into new life. We are "born again" and irrevocably transformed through the power of His Holy Spirit.
In the Bible, the word "believe" isn't a conceptual word describing intellectual agreement alone. It is a word of action. Our belief should never be hidden like a light placed under a bowl (Luke 11:33)--when unbelieving family and friends look at our lives, they need to see the gospel in action.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
God has ways of shaking the world when He is at work. He literally caused the ground to quake when Jesus died on the cross, and Hebrews 12:26 describes a time still future when the earth will undergo a similar display of His power and presence.
Likewise in our present day, He often lets the foundations of our world be shaken--whether political alliances, financial systems, or other forms of human security. Then we can see the flimsiness of the structures on which we've based our pride and hopes. Individual lives are also often shaken when a family experiences crisis or a marriage begins to unravel. If we have built on the fragile cornerstones of human wisdom, pride, and conditional love, things may look good for a while, but a weak foundation causes collapse when storms hit.
While adversity affects everyone, we can have peace in knowing that God always has a greater purpose when He allows upheaval in our world. Hard times can also shake believers out of apathy and self-focus, reminding us not to trust in ourselves or the temporary structures of this world. There is only one secure foundation: a genuine, deep relationship with Jesus Christ, which will carry you through any and all turmoil. No matter what storms are raging all around, you'll stand firm if you stand on His love.
It's not enough for believers to simply enjoy the security of knowing that our "house" is built on a solid foundation. As God's ambassadors on earth, we have a respon-sibility to extend His compassion to people whose lives are crumbling. Be a living message of hope to those around you today.
Friday, August 10, 2012
The difficulties we face originate from one of three sources. Some are sent to us by the Lord to test our faith, others are the result of Satan's attacks, and still others are due to our own sinful choices.
As you consider these three causes, which type is the hardest for you to bear? I think most of us would say the last one, because we have nobody to blame but ourselves and it seems as if no good can possibly result. After all, the Word of God says that we will reap what we have sown (Gal. 6:7), so we see nothing ahead except a painful harvest.
What this kind of thinking fails to take into account is the Lord's redemptive abilities. Although He never promises to remove all the consequences of sin, He can use our failures to teach us to fear Him, hate evil, and walk in obedience. The difficult lessons we learn can also become our protection from sin in the future. Having suffered the pain of going our own way, we're more likely not to take that path again.
God's arrows of affliction are sharp and painful so He can get our attention. He won't let His beloved children get away with sin because He knows it robs us of blessings, opportunities, and even character refinement.
As painful as your situation may be, thank your heavenly Father that He cares enough to send out His loving discipline. Now it's up to you. How will you respond to His warning? When we learn from experience, the scars of sin can lead us to restoration and a renewed intimacy with God.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Are you wasting your troubles? Anytime God allows trials to enter your life, He has a purpose for them. He wants you to squeeze out every ounce of spiritual growth instead of letting difficulties squeeze you into despair and discouragement. If you'll just respond in the right manner, the trial that looks as if it could destroy you will become an instrument of blessing.
The most natural response to adversity is to groan and plead with the Lord to remove it. If that doesn't work, we might get angry or try to find our own way out of the difficulty or pain. Sometimes we resort to blaming others for the trouble. And in truth, someone else might have caused the problem, but ultimately God allowed it. No matter where affliction originates, who is involved, or how evil their intentions, by the time it reaches you, it's been dipped in the Father's love and shaped to accomplish His good purpose. The question is, will you cooperate with Him, or will you resist?
Perhaps the key word is found in verse 4 of today's reading. God wants to use your trial to develop spiritual maturity, but unless you let it do its work, that opportunity will be lost. If we could foresee all the benefits the Lord designed our trials to accomplish, maybe we'd be more cooperative.
Although we can't see all the specifics of God's plan, we know that His goal is to use our adversity to supply something we lack so we can be mature and complete. Even though the experience is painful, rest in the Father's comforting arms, and let Him do His perfect work in you.
Evaluating True Riches BIBLE MEDITATION: "And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." 1 John 2:17 DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT: Do you want to know how rich you are? Add up everything you own that money cannot buy, that death nor disaster cannot take away, and then you'll know just how rich you are. What did you discover? Hopefully, you discovered that it's time you started laying up true riches. Because all the rest will burn away. If you are putting all of your labor in this world, it's like rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship. ACTION POINT: Read Matthew 6:19-21. Where is your heart? Where is your treasure? ______________________________________ Pass this devotional on http://www.lwf.org/site/R?i=Mg2_JV65zIPonNRmi43zLg
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Although most of us would love to have the heroic trust of the men and women mentioned in Hebrews 11, few of us are willing to go through the process which God uses to develop this kind of dynamic faith. We love reading about the great victories and accomplishments of those who trusted the Lord, but we cringe at the descriptions in verses 36-38. None of us want to go through such horrific situations, but adversity is God's way of purifying our faith.
Picture the Lord as a master sculptor standing before a block of marble--that slab is you! Picturing the hidden work of art within the rock, He lovingly and carefully chips away at everything that does not fit the masterpiece He's creating.
Character: One of the first areas the Lord deals with is your character. His goal is to shape you into the image of His Son, and there are some traits and attitudes that must be chipped away in order for Him to accomplish the task. His chisel lays bare roots of sin and selfishness.
Idolatry: When anything or anyone becomes more important to us than the Lord, we have an idol in our lives. To protect us, God sometimes uses adversity to strip away everything we have relied upon so that we'll cling only to Him.
The chisel hurts--it sometimes feels as if God is taking away everything we hold dear. Unless you understand His goal and believe He's working for your good, you'll think He's cruel. But if you trust Him and yield to His shaping tool of adversity, your faith will be purified and strengthened through affliction.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Faith is perhaps the most central element in the Christian life because it is the means by which we enter into salvation. But thats only the beginning. From then onward, our faithor lack of itshapes our lives and determines what happens to us when the winds of adversity blow. Some Christians never lose their footing even in hurricane-force winds, but others are toppled by the slightest gust. To understand why this is true, we need to examine the source of our faith.
Inherited faith: If you grew up in a Christian home, you probably adopted some of the beliefs of your parents. This kind of godly foundation is a wonderful gift from the Lord, but eventually, each person must assume responsibility for his own beliefs.
Textbook faith: The Bible is the ultimate guide for establishing our beliefs. But thats not the only source of influence. Books, preachers, teachers, and friends all impact our convictions. Our theology may in fact be sound, but faith is merely mental acceptance until its put to the test.
Proven Faith: Only when we trust the Lord through the fires of adversity will we have faith that can stand. It is no longer based on what others have told us or what weve accepted as true but on our firsthand experience of His faithfulness.
To evaluate your faith, consider how you react to adversity. Do you cling to the Lord or get angry at Him? Is your attitude one of rejoicing because Hes making you more like His Son, or are you bitter? No one can escape adversity, but those with proven faith will benefit from it.
Monday, August 6, 2012
I have a friend who, at one point, was a self-confessed shopping addict. Recently, his family realized that this activity had stopped, though he hadn't intentionally curtailed it. Why, they wondered, did his longing to acquire more goods seem to dissolve?
The reason was that my friend had become more satisfied with the Lord. He no longer needed fulfillment from what the world had to offer. What a terrific illustration of growth in Christ.
In addition to finding fulfillment in God, there are many other growth indicators that are noticeable to the believer. For instance, offering forgiveness becomes easier over time. Consider our Savior, who asked God to forgive even those who crucified Him on the cross.
Also, as we mature, our faith will increase. God loves us, and He gracefully and gently builds our confidence in Him. Then, as our trust grows, we realize how faithful He truly is--which grows our assurance even more.
Another mark of a closer walk with Christ is an expanding concern for others' spiritual condition. And finally, as our relationship with the Lord deepens, we will increasingly desire to obey Him. This desire is born not out of fear but out of love for our heavenly Father. Similarly, when we do sin, our hearts will become saddened and repentant.
Are you satisfied spiritually? Or do you have a growing, insatiable hunger for more of Jesus? Friend, if you think that you've come far enough in your journey with Christ, you have made a terrible mistake. You are missing great fulfillment and the excitement that comes from getting closer to Him.
Saturday, August 4, 2012
All around the world, people go to church, bow their head to pray, and hear sermons, but many are not growing spiritually. I consider this a great tragedy.
It is all too common for believers to assume these actions fulfill Christian obligations. They may complete a checklist but experience no thriving relationship with Jesus. Do you see evidence in your own life that you're maturing in your walk with Him?
To blossom spiritually, we must be saved. This happens the moment God makes us new, cleansing us of unrighteousness and adopting us as His own. Upon that foundation, we can begin to grow. Yet even with this new life, we can be stagnant.
Eight indicators reveal the quality of our Christian journey. Today, let's explore three of them. First, growing believers should sense a deepening hunger for Christ. As we experience more of Jesus, who is the bread of life (John 6:35), our desire for Him will increase. Second, believers dwelling closely with the Savior will notice that their discernment of sin sharpens. Faulty teaching and thinking become more obvious as we accumulate truth within our spirit. Third, our sphere of love should continuously expand. In time, the Holy Spirit enables us to care for people who previously were either unnoticed or difficult to accept.
Do you have an insatiable hunger for God and an increasing awareness of sin? Is your love available only for those who match your personal standard of performance--or are you caring even for difficult people? These are important questions to ask when determining the quality of your spiritual growth.
Friday, August 3, 2012
Struggle and heartache are part of the human experience. Who has not walked through valleys that seem hopeless or unending? Even Jesus cried out on the cross, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46). Isn't it true that we sometimes ask the same kind of questions: Where are You, God? Why won't You do something in my life?
I want to encourage you to keep hold-ing on, even in the bleakest hour. When your faith is stretched thin, your strength seems nearly gone, and your dreams have shattered like broken glass, do not give up on the Lord--that would lead only to damaged self-esteem, forfeited blessings, and a strict limit on your usefulness to God. It's also a denial of 1 John 4:4, which teaches, "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." Abandoning divine help in favor of our own human strength is a rejection of the truth that God is faithful all the time.
The opposite of giving up is not always immediate triumph; sometimes we are called upon to persist until victory. The Lord may want us to bear up under affliction and remain steadfast in the face of temptation. Like Moses, we may be called on to endure, "as seeing Him who is unseen"(Heb. 11:27).
Endurance requires patience and time, so hold your post like a good soldier until the battle is won (2 Tim. 2:3). That means shouldering the burden of evil, affliction, or persecution courageously while trusting that the God who allowed your circumstances will see you through.
Thursday, August 2, 2012
Believers are on a continual growth track that ascends higher and higher. This side of heaven none of us ever "arrive," but we each have a responsibility to press on to maturity. Though many people think those who know a lot about the Bible are the spiritually mature ones, Hebrews 5:14 adds the element of practice to the growth equation. This word means a custom or habit. Christian growth requires the discipline of godly habits carried out daily.
The most important practice to cultivate is a personal devotional time. Since God is the source of all spiritual development, you can't neglect Him and expect to become mature. Transformation begins with time in His Word and prayer.
Obedience is another essential element for advancement. When our desire to obey the Lord is stronger than our attraction to sin, we'll know we are making progress in our spiritual life.
In terms of physical development, the goal is to become more independent and self-sufficient as we age. But in the spiritual realm, the opposite is true. Those who are mature in Christ recognize their own inadequacy and rely on the Holy Spirit within them. It's His job to transform our character and empower us to accomplish everything the Lord calls us to do.
Getting older doesn't mean maturity in God's eyes. By digging into Scripture and developing righteous habits, we can use our years to grow stronger in the Lord instead of wasting time with passivity. No one accidentally becomes mature. Spiritual growth requires a diligent pursuit of God.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Since our Father wants us to mature in the faith, we should stop periodically and examine our lives to see if we're making progress in this area. Physical growth is fairly easy to evaluate--all you need is a tape measure. But how can you tell if you're growing spiritually? Let's begin by considering how children develop.
Desires: Have you noticed that your childhood toys no longer interest you? The maturing process changes our desires in the spiritual realm too. When we're growing, the world's pleasures lose their appeal, while our hunger for God and His Word increases. We are eager to be with Him and share with others how He's working in our lives.
Understanding: When you were young, your perception of the world was very limited. In the same way, we lack spiritual understanding when we're new believers. But in time, we begin to see life from Gods perspective. Trials and temptations become opportunities for growth, and service for the Lord becomes an honor instead of a burden.
Selflessness: The most obvious sign of a toddler's immaturity is his selfishness. He wants his way, and he wants it now! Hopefully that is no longer characteristic of you. A mature believer is submissive to the Lord, willing to wait, and more concerned about others than himself.
How are you doing in these three areas of growth? Maybe it's time to let go of a few childish ways in order to grow into a mature believer. The greatest evidence of maturity is love. When the Lord and other people have first place in our hearts, it's then that we're most like Jesus.